Family of Man Shot to Death by Police in Maine Sues

The family of a 22-year-old man shot by a police officer in Portland, Maine, is suing him in a wrongful death case.

In February 2017, Chance David Baker was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Portland strip mall by Sgt. Nicholas Goodman of the Portland Police Department.

Goodman was responding to reports of a man with a gun who had been seen in the parking lot.

What Goodman says he saw was man with a lethal weapon.

Instead, it was Baker with a BB air rifle that he had just bought at a pawn shop.

At the time of Baker's death, the incident spawned protests and vigils for a man many believe shouldn't have been killed. Now, two years later, his mother, Shantel Baker, and his grandmother, Terry Baker, are making that claim a legal one.

They've filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against Nicholas Goodman and Coastal Trading and Pawn, the shop that sold Chance the air rifle.

The suit was recently moved to federal court from the Maine state judicial system.

Bangor attorney Hunter Tzovarras is representing the Bakers' relatives, who live in Iowa. He says the officer and pawn shop violated Chance Baker's Fourth Amendment rights.

"The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from the use of excessive force by police officers, and it's our position the officer in this case used excessive force," said Tzovarras.

The Portland Police Department is not named in the suit because, Tzovarras says, no department policies were violated by Goodman.

The office of former Attorney General Janet Mills, now Maine's governor, cleared Goodman of any wrongdoing in 2018 after a standard investigation conducted after all officer-involved shootings.

But Tzovarras and the Bakers believe that while not criminal, Goodman's actions were damaging to an unnecessary degree. They think Goodman should have noticed Baker was not armed with an actual firearm.

Coastal Trading and Pawn is included in the suit because Tzovarras says his clients believe it should never have sold Baker the BB rifle in the first place.

"It should have been obvious [Baker] was in some sort of mental health crisis or intoxicated state," said Tzovarras.

A report from police shows Baker had consumed malt liquor before buying the rifle.

Friends interviewed in 2017 said Baker had been paranoid, using drugs and drinking.

Asked about the suit Thursday, Coastal Trading and Pawn declined to comment because litigation was pending.

John Wall, an attorney for Sgt. Goodman, also said in an e-mail, "We have no comment at this time regarding the lawsuit."

In federal court, there is no limit on damages the Bakers would receive if they win at trial.

A jury would decide what that amount would be.

A trial isn't expected until 2020.

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